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Army general facing court-martial

January 23, 2013

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Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is facing court-martial charges involving sexual misconduct. Sinclair recently served in Afghanistan, but was reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to face charges in a military tribunal. Sinclair served five combat tours of duty. Despite his excellent 27 year career service record, the military has decided to pursue charges. It is uncommon for general officers to be charged in the military. In recent times, only two general officers have faced courts-martial charges. Typically, general officers accused of misconduct are relieved from duty and forced to resign in lieu of being charged with a criminal offense. Sinclair's problem is that he was accused of a series of sexual misconduct with multiple parties. That may have been too high a number for the military to overlook.

In the military, accusations of this nature and others are investigated by CID (Criminal Investigative Department). CID agents are very similar to other types of the law enforcement officers such as FBI agents or homicide detectives. However, CID agents do not make the decision to arrest. That decision is solely the responsibility of the chain of command. Each member of the chain of command is supposed to independently recommend whether a soldier should be referred to a court-martial and what type of court-martial should be pursued. Defendants face the statutory maximum as set forth in the Manual for Courts-Martial. Additionally, a defendant faces a dishonorable discharge either by way of a guilty plea or a conviction at trial.

There are two types of special courts-martial, BCD (bad conduct discharge) and straight special. The maximum amount of punishment under a special court-martial is six months of incarceration. With a BCD, a soldier can be discharged as part of his criminal sentence, whereas, in a straight special a soldier cannot be discharged. However, if a soldier is convicted of crimes charged as a straight special, the chain of command can turn to an administrative discharge. A summary court martial is punishable up to 30 days with no discharge. Like a straight special, a defendant convicted at a summary court-martial can be administratively separated for misconduct. The only type of court-martial that requires a preliminary hearing before charges are preferred is the general. Anyone charged with a general court-marital is entitled to an Article 32 investigation, which is like a mini-trial where evidence is presented to a hearing officer. The findings of the Article 32 investigation are delivered to the chain-of command to help determine whether charges should be preferred or in other words pursued.

The allegations against Sinclair were heard at an Article 32 investigation back in November. Apparently five woman submitted evidence of illegal sexual activity which occurred in such venues as Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, and two bases in the United States. Some of the female soldiers involved were officers who are also in jeopardy of losing their military careers and being prosecuted as well. One of the woman officers faces adultery charges. Anyone in the military and is married is forbidden under the UCMJ from engaging in sexual relations with other parties. While adultery is an archaic offense in civilian life, the military takes this offense seriously. More problems arise when higher ranking officers have sexual relations with lower ranking officers in their chain-of command. Soldiers can be charged with fraternization if they engage in this type of conduct. In sum, Sinclair is being charged with sodomy, another crime not usually charged in the civilian world, wrong sexual conduct, violating orders and adultery. His career is over, but will he spend any time in Ft. Leavenworth is the question.

Army General at Military Hearing on Sex Charges, Miami, January 22, 2012.
Categories: Military Law
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